Happy Pricing for Photographers {thoughts from the intern}

Hi!  Intern Becky here with some Friday business thoughts on pricing for you!

Although fun, flexible, and artistic, another aspect of being a photographer is running and sustaining your business.  Pricing is key.  I am currently trying to work out a price plan myself, and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as slapping a couple numbers up for your portrait session prices.  There are so many factors one must include when designing their “photo menu”.  I want mine to be appealing, display a sense of value, start off with enticing simple dishes, then round out with all inclusive entree options.  (Talking about pricing is making me hungry, just say’n!)

There are costs involved directly with the actual portrait shoot such as…

  • equipment
  • equipment rental
  • travel cost
  • hiring assistants/second shooters
  • props /puppets (mostly for the kiddos and some adults needing extra smile motivation) etc.

There are also costs behind the scenes such as…

  • website hosting
  • print/product cost
  • office supplies
  • proof hosting
  • credit card fees
  • association dues
  • advertising
  • sample albums/prints
  • rent
  • utilities
  • insurance
  • car maintenance
  • employees
  • packaging
  • workshops/education
  • state sales taxes
  • federal/self employment taxes

And how do you put a price on all that TIME that is involved?

Keep in mind, when you pay for a photographer, you are not only paying for the time that elapsed when they took your picture, you are also paying them for the hours and hours of post processing they will be putting in to ensure you get a frame worthy image.  And don’t forget about all the time that goes into the pre-booking emails/phone calls/consultations, and post-shoot proofing sessions, etc.

With just a minimal amount of research, you’ll find that the cost for shooting a wedding could be anywhere from $800 to $80000.  But what’s included in that price? Free bridal shoot? Credit towards a luxurious album? A second and 3rd shooter? 4 hours of coverage or unlimited hours of coverage?  Certainly $80000 sounds like a great amount of money, but if capturing your day is the single most important part of your event (other than the event itself), the package including more tangible items may be the best way to go.  After all, the photography is the only purchase for your wedding day that gains value as the years go by.  As Jerry Ghionis says, “How important is cheap to you?”

So what are those magic pricing numbers?  It will be different from one photographer to another.  Everyone has a different equipment set up, processing program, target market, business cost, and income goal (part time or full time).  You also have to consider how much work you can balance and how much you want and can even get.  $300 might sound like a lot for a 1 hour portrait session, but if you only do 5 a month, you’ll probably need another  full time day job to stay afloat.  And how will you manage a full time day job with all the TIME that is required of those 5 sessions?

Let’s say you charge $1000 for a wedding and you shoot 4 weddings a month from May-October (you may pick up one or two in the other months, but it’s not prime wedding season, so it’s iffy) (plus, 24 weddings is a HUGE workload as it is) (and you’ll be spending those other 6 months doing engagement and bridal sessions for those 24 couples, and designing albums, etc).  So, that’s $24,000 a year… divide that by 12 months and that’s $2,000 a month.  Let’s say your rent/mortgage is on the cheap side of the scale at $700/month.  That leaves you with $1,300.  Power, Gas, Water, Trash bills come in and take that other $300 easy.  Now you’re at $1,000.  Well, you can’t run your business very well without the internet and a phone/cell phone.  That’s another $200.  Now we’re down to $800 profit.  Another $50-$100 in business/equipment insurance, $50 for car insurance, and $50 for website hosting leaves you with $600 profit for the month.  If you stop there, go ahead and take another 25-35% out for federal/self employment taxes, and you’re left with about $400.  You haven’t even purchased the prints/albums/products for your couple yet.  And what will you package all their goodies in?  And did you include a second shooter in that $1,000 package?  Unless you’ve just got someone tagging along for free for experience, a second shooter is gonna cost you no less than $200 per wedding for someone experienced.  Now you’re in the negative by more than $500.  And wait, we forgot gas for the car!

As you can see, with all of the up front costs, time, and effort involved, there has to be a thoughtful menu of pricing that covers the expenses, contributes to sustaining the business, and compensates the artist for their work.

Some may take the factors above into account and others may just slap a number up, hoping it will work out.  As a photographer, you are providing a wonderful service that freezes memories onto beautiful metallic paper to grace the walls for years to come before being passed down to the kids.  Just make sure you don’t de-value what you’re all about!

Happy holidays and happy pricing!

Intern Becky

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